Pet Etiquette: Tips For a Successful Dog Park Outing

One of my pups, drooling after an epic play session at the dog park.

One of the many joys of being a dog owner is taking your pup to a dog park.  Many dogs spend hours a day by themselves while their owners are at work, so the chance to run off leash and play with other dogs brings out in them a happiness that is infectious.  Seriously, in a way that should by no means be an indication of the rest of my life, sometimes the best part of my day is going to the dog park with my hounds.

If you are lucky enough to have a dog park in your area, consider yourself fortunate.  Many times, dog parks face opposition from community groups citing concerns from noise to impact on landscaping.  These concerns are understandable and easy for dog owners to address.

4 Steps For An Awesome Day At The Dog Park

1. Pick up after your pup.  This is the first rule for a reason: it’s the biggest pet peeve of dog parks.  No one, even dog lovers, wants to find an unpleasant surprise on the bottom of her shoe, left by your dog.  While many dog parks supply waste disposal bags, always bring your own, just in case.

2. Limit the barking.  Dogs need time and space to be dogs.  For city dogs especially, the dog park is one of the few places where it’s completely appropriate for them to bark, howl, and yip away.  Barking is natural, is not necessarily aggressive, and is a part of dog play.  However, excessive barking is disruptive to others in the area and should be curbed.  All dogs are different and may be prone to barking over different things: a toy, another dog, or treats.  Know what is your dog’s trigger and be prepared to remove it or to distract your dog to stop incessant barking.

3. Keep dogs in dog area.  While some dog parks are fenced facilities, others are not.  And while some people enjoy dogs and do not mind a pup bounding toward them, others do not.  An open dog park does not mean that dogs are free to run anywhere, and people in other areas of a community space have the right to enjoy it as they would like.

4. Keep children calm. Just as other areas of parks are off-limits to dogs, dog parks not play areas for children.  Including children on trips to the dog park is a wonderful way to help them bond with the family pet and introduce them to other types of dogs.  It is important for children to act and speak calmly while around dogs, to avoid exciting the dogs.  Children should avoid running or bringing non-canine toys in the dog area, as these can lead to confused dogs and scared children.

Again, if you are fortunate enough to have a dog park in your area, be a good steward of all dogs and their owners everywhere.  And, if you don’t have a dog, but do have a local dog park, stop by some afternoon.  I can guarantee you’ll leave happier.

The Politest Baby on the Block: Simple Thank You Notes for Kids

Adorable Thank You Notes for KidsOver the weekend, I was chatting with some new acquaintances at a party, and the subject of etiquette came up, specifically etiquette classes for children.  This is a trend that seems to be growing in popularity.  One important lesson in manners children should learn early is the art of writing thank you notes, and today I happened upon these adorable thank you notes that would be perfect for a younger child.  What a fun, easy way to introduce a little one to good manners!


Simple Mother’s Day Brunch Recipe

As far back as I can remember, my mother makes strata, a delicious egg casserole, for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving.  There’s no redeeming nutritional value, but gosh is it delicious!  It is so easy to prepare, feeds a crowd, and is always a hit, so it has become a regular in my party dish rotation.  Strata is perfect for brunch since you assemble it a day ahead, and it also is wonderful for dinner, paired with a vinaigrette-dressed salad.

Mother’s Day Brunch Recipe


1 loaf white bread, cubed

2 sticks butter, melted

1 quart milk

1 dozen eggs, beaten

1lb. cheddar cheese, shredded

Preparation: Spread bread cubes in bottom of a large, shallow pan.  Cover with shredded cheese.  Pour melted butter and beaten eggs into milk.  Pour mixture over bread and cheese.  Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Bake: Preheat oven to 350°.  Bake, covered, in a water bath for 1 and 1/2 hours.

One Gift, 12 Presents: Birchbox Monthly Beauty Samples Delivery

Birchbox for WomenFor my most recent birthday, my husband got me a membership to Birchbox, a monthly delivery of high-end beauty and home goods samples.  The first week of each month, this darling little package appears, chock full of skincare, makeup, and fragrance.  Birchbox customizes your box based on your skin type, coloring, and preferences, ensuring you get samples suited to you.  If your idea of good time is spending hours meandering through Sephora, Birchbox is your mothership.  Speaking of which, with Mother’s Day coming up soon, a Birchbox membership is a perfect gift.  One gift, 12 presents!

Birchbox Women’s May Delivery

This month’s shipment did not disappoint.  Just in time for summer, the perfect shade of nail polish, Clambake Coral.

Color Club nail polishFeel confident in those tank tops and strapless dresses with Miracle Skin Transformer Body SPF 20, a triple threat of moisturizer, SPF, and concealer.

Sarah McNamara BeautyThe most luxurious sample among this month’s goodies, Algenist Regenerative Anti-Aging Moisturizer, has a microalgae compound to give you younger looking skin, gently.

Regenerative Anti-Aging MoisturizerPerfect for all of us who put our hair through the paces, Kérastase Cristalliste Lumiere Liquide adds shine to your strands and smells yummy.

Kerastase serumIn addition to these  products, there were also a few “extras”: Kérastase Cristalliste Bain Cristal shampoo and conditioner and, fittingly, a bright pink and green note card and envelope!

Birch Box notecardsIn addition to having fun products, Birchbox has a fabulous rewards program.  For every 100 points you earn, you get $10 in the Birchbox Shop.  You can earn points based on your purchases, and also by reviewing products, making it easy to rack up enough points for some deep discounts!  And while this post is all about things for the ladies, Birchbox also has shipments for the men in your life.  Father’s Day is right around the corner!

Sentinmental and Practical: My Favorite Gift for Newlyweds

Pottery Barn Great White Traditional Dinnerware

Today’s Tip Tuesday is inspired by all the upcoming June weddings.  The Roman goddess Juno rules over marriage, the hearth, and childbirth, making June the most popular month for weddings, with 13% of weddings taking place then.

My favorite wedding gift to send newlyweds is a few sets of their everyday china.  I love giving presents that couples will use frequently, are practical, but also meaningful.  Dining with your significant other can run the gamut from romantic dinners to the a quick cup of coffee, intimate brunches with each other to holidays filled with friends and families.  I love that the dishes I’ve given someone will be the constant in all of those moments.  With all my gifts, I include a quotation on the card.  Years ago, I found a lovely quote to accompany the china and send best wishes to the happy couple…

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ~Virginia Woolf

Soup Etiquette: How to Eat It, Not Wear It and Bonus Recipe

Pea & Ham SoupSpring is my absolute favorite season.  When I lived in the South, spring meant the scent of honeysuckle and driving with the top down.  Now that I live in New England, spring brings Red Sox games and trips to Maine.  Wherever I live, I find myself wanting to remove winter from all aspects of my life.  Away go the snow boots and parkas, replaced by rain boots and slickers.  Snow shovels get moved to the back of the shed while pots of herbs are set out on the deck.  Suppers, instead of winter’s hearty fare of meat and root vegetables, often consist of soup and salad.

Soup Etiquette

Whether you are served soup in a bowl or cup, here are a few tips for eating your first course politely:

  • Use your soup spoon, the large spoon farthest from your plate on the right.
  • Sip from the side edge of the spoon, not the front.
  • Fill your spoon by moving it away from you.  This will help you avoid making a mess of your clothes.
  • Skim your spoon on the edge of the soup bowl as you fill it with soup to remove any potentially messy drops of soup from the bottom of the spoon.
  • Tip your bowl away from you.  This will help you avoid making a mess of your hostess’s tablecloth.  (Yes, tipping the bowl to eat the last few spoonfuls is fine.)
  • Soup served in a cup may be eaten with a small spoon, or you may lift the cup and drink the soup.  No slurping, please.
  • If garnishes are served, you should crumble crackers, sprinkle croutons.
  • If soup is served in a bowl, leave your spoon on the plate underneath the bowl.  If soup is served in a cup, leave your spoon on the saucer underneath the cup.

Spring Pea Soup Recipe

Peas are one of my favorite spring vegetables, so imagine my delight when I found this recipe for spring pea soup from Bon AppètitApril Bloomfield‘s soup, garnished with mint and crème fraîche, looks like a perfect spring supper.


For the broth
2 pounds meaty smoked ham hocks
1/2 medium Spanish onion, halved
3 small celery stalks, very roughly chopped
1/2 medium carrot, peeled, very roughly chopped
1 head garlic, halved horizontally, not peeled
1 fresh bay leaf, or 1/2 dried
6 black peppercorns

For the soup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 small Spanish onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 teaspoons Maldon or another flaky sea salt
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
Five-fingered pinch of mint leaves, plus some torn leaves for finishing
Two 10-ounce packages Birds Eye frozen baby peas
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
3 or 4 tablespoons crème fraîche
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar, divided


For the broth
Combine the hocks, vegetables, bay leaf, peppercorns, and 8 cups of water in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. turn the heat to low, put the lid on, and cook at a nice steady simmer until the meat on the hocks is so tender it’s almost falling off the bone, 4 to 5 hours. Carefully remove the hocks and put them in a big bowl. Strain the cooking liquid through a sieve into the bowl, and discard the vegetables and aromatics. Let the hocks cool in the liquid. When the hocks are cool enough to handle, pull off the meat in bite-sized chunks. Discard the bones and any hard bits and some of the fat, but don’t throw away the skin–I add the skin to the soup in thin slices, along with the chunks of ham. You don’t have to, but i like the way it goes sticky in the soup. You can keep the stock and meat (moistened with a splash of stock) in separate airtight containers in the fridge for up to two days. Gently warm the meat and skin before proceeding with the recipe. This recipe requires only 4 cups of stock–you may freeze the leftover stock for up to a month for your next batch of soup.

For the soup
Put the butter in a large pot that has a lid and set it over medium heat. Once the butter starts to froth, add the onion, carrot, and salt and stir. Cover the pot and cook, stirring every now and again, until the onions are soft and creamy (but not colored) and the carrots are tender but firm, about 15 minutes.

Add the wine and bring it to a boil (turn the heat up if you need to). let the wine boil until it’s all but gone, about 5 minutes. add the mint and 4 cups of the ham broth and bring the liquid to a boil, then add the peas. (at this point, the carrots will have bobbed to the top. i like to pick out most of the carrot chunks before pureeing the soup, then add them back after. that way, you can nibble on them in the soup, getting that bit of texture.) Cook at a simmer until the peas are warmed through and tender, about 5 minutes.

Blend the pot’s contents, in batches, until smooth. Return all the bright-green pea puree to the large pot, add the ham pieces and carrots, and cook at a very gentle simmer for about 5 minutes, just to let the flavors mingle and heat the ham. Have a taste, and season with salt. How much you need to add will depend on how salty the ham hocks are.

Add a generous drizzle of olive oil, several twists of black pepper, and the torn mint leaves. then add the crème fraîche in little blobs here and there, so everyone will get a bit. Serve the soup in the pot, with small bowls alongside.

Photo credit: Bon Appètit